“Where are we goin’?”: An impromptu road trip

Impromptu road trip, anyone?

The other day my sister and I took the nieces and nephew for a ride around “the loop” which is basically just circling the community we live in.  We live in the middle of nowhere, so we rode around with the windows down, just enjoying the day that God had made.

Stormie kept asking me, “Where we goin’?  Where we goin’?”  You know how 2 years old can be, always asking questions and asking the same question repeatedly.  My reply was, “Nowhere.  We’re just drivin’.”  (‘g’ is not a letter in the South. ;-))

Bear with me, I swear there’s a point to this.

We drove along a little while longer and finally ended up on a gravel road near one of the cemetery’s around my house.  (It’s not as creepy as it sounds.  Well, at night it is.)  I turned around and headed back home after that, Stormie still asking me where we were going.

After thinking about Stormie asking me, continuously, where we were going, I thought about how it applies to writing.  Have you ever read a story or novel and thought, “Where on earth is the author going with this?”  And then, at the right time, it’s revealed.  Well, it’s not always revealed “at the right time.”

But where are you goin’?

That’s an important question to answer.  No matter whether your a plotter or pantser, there’s still the general idea of where you’re going with your story that lingers in the back of your mind.  Of course, the plot changes from time to time.  That’s to be expected, but as long as you tie it all together, you don’t leave your readers saying, “My gosh.  What on earth was she thinkin’?  What was the point of this?”

I’m not going to lie.  In Dean Koontz’s “Breathless,” I was left with the question “Where was he goin’ with that?” hanging around my mind.  Still to this day, it frustrates me that the story doesn’t flow logically, and even if he knew where he was going with the story, I didn’t arrive there with him.  And I’m not the only one who feels that way.  My dad and I still discuss it.  Don’t get me wrong.  Dean Koontz is still one of the best authors in the entire world (at least in my opinion), and one terrible story won’t keep me from reading his other works.  But if it had been the first novel I read by him, I wouldn’t have picked up another one of his books.  All I ask for is that the book keeps me interested and makes me feel like I’m arriving at the same destination as the author in the end.

So, it’s important to make sure that your work flows together well, and that the readers know where the story is going.  There can’t be any unanswered questions, characters that really have no place in the novel, or scenes that don’t work in the overall plot.

So, do your readers know where you’re goin’?  Or have you made an impromptu road trip and have no destination in mind?

9 thoughts on ““Where are we goin’?”: An impromptu road trip

  1. I got stuck a few times with my current WIP, and I found it encouraging that if the next step wasn’t obvious to me, it shouldn’t be to the reader. (In theory.)

    I was reading a YA novel today, for research, and it had several tedious scenes of the characters trying on clothes, hanging out, and just being SO normal and not doing anything. It was a big, thick book too. It’s fine to noodle around looking for plot, but gosh, someone needs to edit that stuff out. Or not. It’s a popular, well-reviewed book, so, what the heck do I know.🙂

    Speaking of Dean Koontz, is little Stormie named after Stormy Llewellyn?

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    1. That does sound like a good theory. I hope it’s true because that’s what happened with my previous WIP. A twist in the story happened just as I was writing it.

      My current WIP is kind of making me wonder where it’s going, but I’m hoping to regain control soon. I think instead of being a pantser on this one, I’m gonna have to be a plotter.

      Books like that, I’m in agreement with you. It definitely needs to be edited out.

      And, I’m still convinced she was! My sister says otherwise, but Odd Thomas is one of Hannah’s favorite books. So, I think she just doesn’t want to admit to it.😉 haha

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      1. It may have been a subconscious thing. I was NOT named after my dead grandmother, according to my parents. But my middle name is the same as her first name. So, uh, WHAT? Oh, that’s right, parents lie.

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  2. My second novel wandered around a bit for the first third (though the characters were doing things much more interesting and less routine than trying on clothes and so on). That’s when a friend (a PhD in Literature, in fact), said it was “too much like life.” Which definitely cut two ways. On one hand, it was like life! That’s pretty good for a writer, that you’ve created a fictional world that feels real.

    On the other hand, he was right that it lacked drive. He liked it when the (sort of) hero woke up one morning with everybody he cared about missing and the villain (plus henchmen) all over his apartment. Suddenly, there was drive and conflict. My friend enjoyed that part.

    I always try to keep that in mind, though I also know that everything can’t be driving the plot all the time, because then you lose the connection to real life, where things are never that simple.

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    1. That’s very good to capture a fictional world that feels that real. But you’re right. There also has to be drive and conflict.

      To me, it’s all about finding the perfect balance. You want things to feel real but not bore your readers by the “real life” aspect of your writing.

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  3. Emerald, your question “But where are you goin’?” totally speaks to my epiphany this year with my WIP. I know where I’m going, and I never have before–I’ve always finished a novel and then worked on fleshing out the plot.

    Whether I’ve set the tracks correctly and kept my readers in their seats, I’m not sure yet. But it’s only a first draft. I do know that from the beginning of this novel I wanted to tell X story, and 3/4 through the draft, I’m still pushing ahead with the same goal. I’m telling the story I wanted to tell, and I know exactly where I’m going. How I’m going to get there is another story…

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    1. That’s great!

      I know different stories tend to take on different paths. As you know, my new WIP is being plotted out completely and it’s new to me. Usually, I have a few basic scenes I know will be in there, but I “pants” it through the others. With this story, I know where I’m going, and I almost know where the other two books are going as well. 😉 That’s new for me!

      Oh and how to get there is a COMPLETELY different story! But alas, I have faith you will, and I’m putting my faith in me getting there as well! haha

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